October Analysis: Domestic Politics and Governance

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The month of October was marked by cabinet expansion and CPN-UML’s statute conventions. Other remarkable incidences followed the resignation of newly appointed minister Gajendra Hamal as a result of criticism, vacant ministerial and other positions, party competition for these positions, and CPN-UML’s general dissatisfaction with the Deuba government and their attempts to curtail proper parliamentary functioning.

Timeline of major events

DateEvent
October 5A meeting of leaders of the ruling coalition reached a consensus on dividing ministries among the parties.
October 8Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s cabinet acquired shape after three months of its formation.
October 9Gajendra Hamal was appointed as minister for industry, commerce and supplies.
October 10Hamal resigned from the ministerial position critics claimed a district level non parliamentarian should not be appointed as minister on the behest of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana.  
October 21CPN-UML demanded leadership of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament pointing out that financial dealings of government agencies should be monitored by opposition parties.
October 22The House of Representatives meeting scheduled for October 26 was postponed by two days because it conflicted with local level conventions of CPN-UML. House functioning has been delayed as a result.

Cabinet Expansion

On October 8, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s cabinet acquired shape after three months of its formation; the full list of ministers is attached here. On October 5, a meeting of leaders of the ruling coalition reached a broad consensus on which party will take which ministry.

Gajendra Hamal was appointedas minister for industry, commerce and supplies. However, critics claimed that Hamal, as a non-parliamentarian, should not be appointed as minister, and that he was likely appointed on the behest of Cholendra Shumsher Rana. Hamal resigned two days after his appointment.

There were a few contests on which parties would take which ministries or positions. CPN (Unified Socialist) initially demanded a position at the defence ministry but secured chief minister positions in Province 1 and Bagmati Province. The five-party alliance had decided to give the postof state minister to Janata Samajbadi Party, however, the state minister position could not be appointed to JSP because the Cabinet size has been capped to 25 members. The deputy speaker’s position is also vacant, and it is unclear which party will receive this position. The position of minister for industry, commerce and supplies is also vacant after Gajendra Hamal resigned.

Uml

UML’s statute congress was held from October 1-3. A document on the party’s organisational structure and a statute amendment proposal was presented during the statute congress. The Standing Committee and Central Committee endorsed the documents. Also, during the statute congress, it was proposed to removethe post of Deputy General Secretary. Currently, Ghanshyam Bhusal and Bishnu Poudel are the Deputy General Secretaries of UML.

UML’s general convention is scheduled for November 18-22.

Congress

Nepali Congress held city conventions in Kathmandu in 10 out of 11 municipalities. The voting process for the Nepali Congress Kathmandu Metropolitan City President and Executive Committee was held on October 3. Also on October 3, Nepali Congress concluded the conventions in local units—rural municipalities, municipalities, sub-metropolitan cities and metropolitan cities—in 64 out of 77 districts.

District conventions in the Himalayan districts were held on October 30. Of the 21 Himalayan districts, the ward convention could not be held in Dolpa and Rasuwa due to active membership disputes.

The upcoming 14th general convention of the party is scheduled to take place on November 25-29, however, it may be delayedas some districts are yet to hold general conventions.

Analysis:

CPN-UML had claimed that the Deuba government was illegitimately formed, however, cabinet expansion was successful. A controversy regarding Hamal’s appointment to the ministry emerged shortly after. Critics argued that a non-parliamentarian district level officer could not be appointed as minister as it blurred lines between judiciary and executive, hence not respecting separation of powers.

Furthermore, the vacant positions of State Minister, Deputy Speaker, and Minister of Industry, Commerce and Supplies is creating confusion as to which party will take which position. The ruling alliance used the Deputy Speaker’s position as a bargaining chip, which critics have argued is not appropriate. The Speaker and Deputy Speaker should be elected within 15 days of the first meeting of the House of Representatives according to Article 91,

CPN-UML’s dissatisfaction with Deuba government

CPN-UML claimed that the new Sher Bahadur Deuba led government was illegitimately formed by splitting CPN-UML and JSP through an ordinance which eased party splits–the Ordinance on Political Parties; the ordinance was later repealed after its purpose was served. As a result, the party held obstructions in the House, thereby curtailing its proper functioning. CPN UML’s party leadership claimed that fresh elections should take place. Due to the House obstructions, over 55 bills were pending in Parliament. Similarly, an ordinance related to administration of oath registered in the Parliament on July 18 lapsed on September 15 due to UML’s House obstruction, affecting PM Deuba’s ability to induct ministers and hindering cabinet expansion. UML boycotted an all-party meeting called by Sher Bahadur Deuba, pointing out that they will not attend any meeting where CPN (Unified Socialist), CPN-UML’s splinter party, which the UML claims is ‘unconstitutionally formed’, is present. Similarly, a House of Representatives meeting scheduled for October 26 was postponed by two days because it conflicted with local level conventions of CPN-UML, delaying House functioning.

Photo: RSS

Analysis:

The events outlined above demonstrate how domestic party politics and conflict affects functioning of the Parliament, to the extent that bills remain pending in the House, cabinet expansion is hindered, and parliamentary meetings are delayed.

Party conventions, statute congresses, and possible elections

Political parties held or planned their conventions and statute congresses this month. UML’s statute congress was held from October 1-3 and the general convention is scheduled for November 18-22.  CPN-UML is scheduled to hold party conventions in wards across the country on October 20 at the lower level of the party. Nepali Congress, on October 3, concluded the conventions in local units. Their 14th general convention is scheduled for November 25-29.

During UML’s statute congress, it was proposed to remove the post of Deputy General Secretary. Currently, Ghanshyam Bhusal and Bishnu Poudel are the Deputy General Secretaries of UML. Nepali Congress announced that even if it loses the general convention representative, it will be able to run for the post other than the chairperson of the district working committee. This rule will apply to districts with two or more constituencies.

Furthermore, early elections in April-May 2022 instead of November-December 2022 is possible if the prime minister dissolves the House, however, this move is uncertain since agreement between political parties cannot be ascertained.

Analysis:

Successful party conventions and statute congresses mark the beginning of the formation of a stable government. However, elections slated for November-December 2022 may incur significant expenses. An Election Observation Committee’s studyshowed that in previous elections, candidates and political parties spent Rs. 131.63 billion. The government spent Rs. 34.72 billion whereas supporters spent more than Rs. 96.91 billion. There were 15,427,938 voters in the 2017 elections and each voter cost Rs. 8,492. Another study by the committee showed that each voter cost Rs. 4,923 and Rs. 69.42 billion was spent in three phases of local elections.

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